Community discusses landfill

Published 2:56 am Friday, July 27, 2018

The Landfill Community Meeting, organized by the Cumberland County Landfill Awareness (CCLA) group, drew approximately 100 people to the Cumberland Community Center on Sunday afternoon to learn more about the proposed Green Ridge landfill facility, with the presentation emphasizing opposition to it.

The CCLA group referred people to the website The site states, “We are a community of residents living in Central Virginia representing Cumberland, Powhatan, Goochland, Chesterfield, Henrico and Prince Edward counties dedicated to supporting solutions and highlighting potential issues to public safety and well-being of all in Central Virginia. Our current focus is in documenting and bringing awareness to the proposed mega landfill on the county line of Cumberland and Powhatan counties.”

Several members of the CCLA group gave presentations Sunday on the proposed Green Ridge landfill facility. More shared how those in attendance can get involved in opposing the landfill, and then there was a question-and-answer session.

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Christal Schools, of the CCLA group, said she was worried people would not show up for Sunday’s meeting, but the group’s efforts to publicize it were successful.

“We worked really hard to try to get the word out,” she said. “I’m so happy they came out. It was great. It was more people than I expected.”

She said she printed 100 sign-in sheets for potential volunteers to use, and she ran out of them.

“So that’s a good sign,” she said. “It shows that people want to get involved.”

Ron Tavernier, who also spoke Sunday, said he thought the meeting went very well and noted that it featured “a lot of new faces that hadn’t been at the board meetings or the planning/zoning meetings. There were a lot of people that were paying a lot of attention. When I was talking, I felt when I took a breath, I could have dropped a pin, and everybody would have jumped because they really paid attention. I’ve seen a lot of people taking notes, and obviously they were absorbing the information.”

Schools pressed home the message that the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors’ approval of the landfill did not mean the fight was over.

As The Herald previously reported, the board of supervisors voted to approve the rezoning request, conditional use permit and the host agreement for the Green Ridge landfill facility during the early morning of June 29 after a meeting that lasted for about six hours and featured nearly 80 public comments, the majority opposed to the landfill.

Schools stressed that community opposition could still work to keep the landfill from becoming a reality.

After her introduction Sunday, Artour Saakian, another CCLA group member, gave an overview of the timeline pertaining to the proposed landfill. He also covered details of the Host Community Agreement described in a handout at the meeting as “a very important contract between the trash company and us, the host, as represented by the county, meant to protect our interests and well-being.”

Saakian criticized elements of the agreement as being far too vague, creating little-to-no accountability for County Waste of Virginia, which owns Green Ridge, LLC.

He disputed that Cumberland’s interests were not being protected so much as the interests of County Waste of Virginia.

Details of the agreement are still being reviewed by the county government.

Cumberland County released a public notice Wednesday indicating that a special Cumberland County Board of Supervisors meeting has been called for Thursday, Aug. 2, at 7 p.m. to consider the Green Ridge Host Community Agreement and County Health Insurance. The meeting will be held in the Cumberland Elementary School Cafeteria.

A significant portion of the CCLA group presentations Sunday were dedicated to highlighting impacts the proposed landfill could have on people, the environment, traffic and emergency response personnel and agencies.

Kevin Halligan spoke on the impact to people, and Laurie Halligan spoke on the impact to traffic, with Kevin noting the issue hits close to home.

“We live about a half a mile from the entrance of the proposed landfill, right on the Powhatan line,” he said.

In his presentation, Halligan cited “that the landfill companies do target communities based on a set of statistics or a set of qualities, characteristics in terms of people that are going to be the least resistant — lower income, lower property values, being away from the population at large so they’re not really a nuisance and also that the host community has an identified economic need, which is definitely what Cumberland has.”

He added that “I don’t know that they target specifically for race, but I imagine that there’s a factor. I haven’t come across anything that says, ‘Go to a minority area,’ but you see most of their landfills are in minority areas.”

He highlighted how the poverty level for Cumberland is significantly higher than in surrounding counties.

Halligan also said that landfill companies tend to avoid transient communities and target established communities with long-time residents that are not likely to ever move.

Additionally, he mentioned some key statistics that could suggest a serious impact on people in the area.

“Cumberland County residents produce like 45,000 pounds of trash a day,” he said. “County Waste will be bringing 10 million pounds of trash (daily) — that sounds like a lot, that’s 5,000 tons. … The local service area encompasses almost half the continental United States — 21 states. That’s a 500-mile radius, it’s an air radius.”

Lastly, he noted how the proposed landfill could destroy important historical elements of the community where it is slated to be placed.

In Laurie Halligan’s presentation, she said that during nighttime hours, considered to be 6 p.m.-12 a.m., Powhatan residents could expect a significant stream of large semitrucks. During the daytime, Cumberland would see a frequent flow of trucks, she said, also noting safety concerns.

Heavy trucks would require a substantial amount of space to come to a complete stop and would be a major hazard if an emergency halt was required, she indicated.

Tavernier spoke about the proposed landfill’s environmental impacts.

“My biggest concern out of all the items I presented was the effects on the downstream societies,” he said after Sunday’s meeting. “Goochland draws 2 million gallons per day off the river. Henrico draws 58 with a surge up to 84 (million). Richmond draws 112 with a surge up to 140. That’s how many millions of gallons of water a day they take off the James River that they are putting into their water service lines to handle their people’s needs. If we contaminate the river, what are we doing to them people down there?”

He mentioned contamination could lead to birth defects and abnormal, serious illnesses that kill people.

“There’s a lot of variables that need to be taken care of and looked at,” he said. “And one of the big concerns also is the fact that the Cobbs (Creek) Reservoir sits north and upstream from the landfill. That is Henrico’s primary source of water when the river goes low. So now what happens? We’re leaking contaminants. We’re poisoning the river. The water level in the river is going down, so it’s coating the banks, settling in the mud on the bottom. Water level gets down so low that Cobbs Creek opens up and pumps out to replenish the river for the people downstream, and all this chemical and toxicity is sitting in the mud and on the banks gets flushed down to the intakes in Henrico. It’s not fair to them that for the slight gain the county’s going to make — and it’s not going to be that much — that we’re going to kill the James River …”

As it pertains to the consequences of damaging wetlands, Tavernier said fines are not enough.

“They can fine (County Waste of Virginia) per acre, which could be up to $50,000 per acre they destroy, and County Waste isn’t even going to flinch,” he said. “They just paid $900,000 for 278 acres. They’re not going to flinch at a $50,000 fine for destroying an acre of wetland.”

A liner exists in landfills to keep the waste from seeping into the soil, but Tavernier disputed that chemicals that people throw away on a daily basis will eat the liner.

“There is no need for a landfill,” he said in summary. “They’re creating a false impression that we’re going to run out of landfill space here in the next few years, that they’re closing landfills (and) we’ll have no choice but to take it, and it’s not so.”

Vikki Ronnau, of Powhatan, spoke to the proposed landfill’s impact on emergency responders.

“We have a mutual aid agreement — Cumberland County does — with the surrounding localities, so if there’s a fire or an emergency as such at the landfill, the adjoining counties will be responsible to respond,” she said. “Fire, rescue, our resources, our training and everything rely on handling and mitigating the fire, but yet we had no vote in this, this huge monstrosity. I’m not even sure if the people in Henrico really — as we’re trying to get the word out — have heard. I think Goochland has, for sure.”

She referenced the possibility of accidents on the road near the landfill.

“The training for the fire and the EMS (personnel) to handle such accidents as these huge accidents, if they were to occur on this two-lane road, is going to require more staffing, it’s going to require training, and that all comes to a cost,” she said. “Who’s paying for that? Powhatan will be. And again, we didn’t have any say in this at all.”

Schools made clear at the meeting that the CCLA group’s efforts would be ongoing and that the group would meet monthly. The next meeting is set for 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12, at the Cumberland Community Center.